We chose to travel again with Princess, as we had a fantastic time on our journey with them to Alaska last summer on the Sapphire Princess. My husband and I are in our 50's and are frequent cruisers. This was our second cruise with Princess and we were not disappointed. We have sailed on other top name cruises, but found that Princess had the best itinerary if you wish to see the British Isles.
The Port of Southampton is 2 hours away from Heathrow airport, so plan for a long first day of traveling if coming from the USA. All transfers and busses to the dock provided by Princess were smooth and efficient.
We stayed in a balcony stateroom on the Caribe Deck, room C707, category BB. The room was large, there is great closet space, and our attendant Leo was very good. Our room was always clean and neat. We especially like the balcony on the Ruby Princess as it was large enough for 4 people and a table. We chose to be on the Caribe deck as each deck below juts out so you are more visible to others who can look down to see you.
We chose the Traditional Dining, the first seating at 5:45pm. Depending on where your cabin is situated, you will be assigned one of 3 dining rooms. We were seated in the beautiful Botticelli Dining room. We traveled with another couple, so we had the same table for 4 each evening. We find this to be the best experience, as you really get special attention from the waitstaff as you get to know each other each night. Our waitstaff was truly amazing and made our dining experience onboard a delight.
Jon, our headwaiter, McRik, and Paskal took care of our every need. Jon would surprise us each evening with a new culinary tasting experience that wasn't on the menu. We had escargot, calamari, tomato brushetta and each was delicious. All the food in the dining room was excellent.
We each had the optional beverage package as we felt this was a great deal. The beverage package works out to be about $49.00 per person a day, and each person in the cabin must be on the plan if you wish to take advantage. This includes unlimited wine, spirits, bottled water, specialty coffees, and soda. We found it to be well worth it and convenient as you only had to show your sea pass and not worry about any other additional charges.
As this was our second cruise with Princess, we were awarded "Gold Status" and they gave us a free dining experience in one of the Specialty Dining Rooms. The two restaurants where there is a cover charge of $25.00 per person are Sabatini's and the Crown Grill. We found both to be excellent, and the Crown Grill to be our favorite. It is well worth the $50.00 per couple. Sabatini's serves excellent Italian fare and the Crown Grill serves excellent premium beef as well as seafood. We dined at Sabatini's once and the Crown Grill twice during our voyage. Both times at the Crown Grill the maitre d' presented us with lobster tails on the house that were amazing. The filet mignon was perfectly grilled, and we ordered creamed spinach and mushrooms on the side. The food is quite delicious as well as plentiful. (We did tell our waitstaff in our Traditional Dining Room that we were going to be dining elsewhere so they would not be expecting us for dinner).
We also took part in the Maitre D Wine Club and the Grapevine Wine Tasting on board as well. The Maitre D Wine Club was a $25.00 cover charge per person, and provided an upscale seminar with a sampling of selected wines and canapés. The Grapevine Wine Tasting was $9.50 per person and also provided a great casual experience with canapés and selected wines. One of the perks of Traditional Dining is that Jon our headwaiter made sure to place our table at the front by the Maitre D so we could have an enhanced experience.
Entertainment on board the Ruby Princess was adequate, with the usual singers and dancers found on most cruises. There were the usual Trivia and other games scattered around in each one of the Lounge's, so there was always something to do. The age group of most people on this cruise was probably 60's to 80's, and we found that the music was more suited to this age group. In "Crooner's" one of the ships lounges there was the same piano player each night and he only played show tunes from the the 40's. We did find the SkyWalkers Nightclub on Deck 18 to be our favorite hangout for dancing to the dj hits.
The itinerary on this voyage was great. This was our main reason for choosing the Ruby Princess. On this cruise, you get to see England, Ireland, Scotland and an optional tour to Normandy or Paris France. We took a tour excursion in each port. The tour guides are amazing and so knowledgeable as they were natives of the area. It is a nice gesture to tip the bus driver and guide an additional 5-10 Euro for their expertise. Yes, the excursions are expensive as we found this with all other cruise lines as well, but it is well worth it.
The only complaint I have with Princess is the communication process when an excursion is cancelled or time is changed. They either make one announcement over the general loudspeaker, so if you are in your room at the time you will not hear it, or they make a general note in your Princess Patter Newspaper. This happened to us twice. Once on our Alaska trip our tour was cancelled and we were never told, so we waited around all day when we could have done something else. On this trip in Dublin the tour was called earlier and we never got the message, hence we missed the tour. I would say that you must always be aware of this and make sure your excursion is operating on time or still operating so you do not waste a day. I would hope that Princess would update the the Communication process by sending a message to your room/phone or following through to make sure you did receive the message. Also, there tend to be very long lines when coming back to the ship from an excursion. We did not encounter as many long lines on other cruise ships.
We extended our tour with a 2 night additional stay in London at the Grange Tower Bridge hotel which was very modern and lovely. We were conveniently located by the Tower Bridge and The Tower of London, a quieter place than most of the London area.
Princess does a very good job organizing Disembarkation to the airport or to your hotel. Each group will have a color code and a number and you wait until you are called. When we were on our way to the airport from our hotel, Princess provided us with a private car and driver as we were the only guests traveling to Heathrow that afternoon.
All in all, I would definitely cruise again on Princess. The staff is wonderful, the food is excellent and they go out of their way to make your experience memorable.